At least once a week I have someone reach out to me asking about bringing an app idea to market. As you’re reading this – chances are high that you, your spouse, friend, cousin or co-worker has an app idea (that’s sure to be worth billions!) and you (or they) are wondering how to take those first steps towards becoming a tech billionaire. Here are five critical do’s and don’ts about bringing an app idea to market.
Do share your idea and get early feedback
You might be in the “paranoid” stage of your idea – one so brilliant that you have to keep it secret, lest someone steal your great idea. I know that feeling, I’ve been there. But there’s a fundamental truth that “the idea is only 1% of the work and success.”
When you consider the value of getting insights, opinions, criticism and push-back on your app idea vs. the risk of someone stealing your idea and turning it into a successful company – the benefit heavily outweighs the risk associated with discussing your idea with others. Now this is not to say you have to discuss every detail of what might be your “secret sauce” or unique insights about the app and business, but higher-level discussions about the problem and solution idea are invaluable early on.
And the reality is, if someone can take your idea and beat you at that business, there are either serious flaws in your idea or your execution of the idea. And if your idea has any merit, there will inevitably be competitors and copycats. So, beyond the idea, there must be something special about you and your execution of the idea that will propel you ahead of everyone else who is (and will be) in that space.
So be sure to discuss your idea with those who might be interested in your solution, even if you judiciously keep out important details. The insights you’ll gain from those conversations will far outweigh any risk of someone stealing your idea.
Don’t hire a coder/programmer/developer
The most common first mistake I see (and a mistake I made myself) is to just take your idea and find a coder/developer/programmer to build your idea. Don’t do this! When you’re at the idea stage of an app, it’s way too early to start paying a developer to build your idea.
There’s a lot of work to refine and optimize your idea, and you do not want to be paying coding hourly rates ($50-$200/hr) to figure these things out. It’s very time-consuming, expensive and frustrating to be paying a programmer to work out your idea at such an early stage. Which brings me to my next point.
Do build your own prototype
You need to work out your idea on your own, using a rapid-prototyping software service. Because app ideas are so common, there are great options for you to quickly build a clickable prototype that closely represents your app idea. And most of these options are free – so it’s only an investment in a few hours of your time to learn how to use something like Proto.io to quickly build and refine a prototype (Note: I use Proto.io to build features and tweaks for TempStars, but there are a lot of options out there like Balsamiq, Figma, Invision, etc.)
I can’t overstate how important this is: a prototype that you’ve built yourself is something you can tweak in real time as you get feedback from potential future users. This skill only takes a couple of hours to learn, and if you’re serious about building an app, it will serve you for years.
A prototype puts something in your and potential users hands that looks and feels just like your idea, even though it’s a prototype. It also serves as a critical communication tool between you and your future developer. Because you’ve worked out the issues and improvements yourself (quickly, easily and inexpensively) with your prototype, you can tell your future programmer “Make it exactly like this.” Then they can quickly and easily bring your idea to life – and for much less money than paying a programmer to work out your screen tweaks.
Do realize it’s never done
You really have to pick and run with an idea that represents a solution to a problem that you’re fundamentally passionate about – because the reality is that your app will never be done. You will be constantly making improvements to your app based on user feedback, and as the market/environment/competitor landscape shifts.
And even if you’ve got all your ducks in a row, it’s not going to go smoothly. It just isn’t. So if you’re not fundamentally passionate about solving the problem with the solution you’re bringing to market, you’ll much more likely throw in the towel at the first sign of adversity.
Get mentorship and/or coaching
The great thing about bringing an app to market is that this is well-trodden ground. There are nearly 2 million apps on the Apple App Store alone, so there have been many people who have gone through this journey before you. Every province has a version of Ontario’s “Regional Innovation Centres,” which are hubs that connect you with mentors, coaches and a community of like-minded individuals on their own entrepreneurial journey.
Personally, I am forever grateful to Haltech, Oakville’s RIC, and MaRS Innovation Centre in Toronto for their ongoing coaching, mentorship, community connections and seminars that have been invaluable to my own personal entrepreneurial journey. They have been critical in helping guide my own personal journey of entrepreneurship.
So you don’t have to go it alone – be sure to connect with the people, and access the resources available that will help keep you on your path.
Do remember that it’s a journey
Let’s not kid ourselves that this is a comprehensive guide to bringing an app to market and building a successful business around it. But if you or someone you know has an app idea you’re excited about, hopefully this helps you avoid some common pitfalls and starts you off in the right direction when you’re in the throes of that first, exciting idea stage.
And please, if you have any questions I do love to discuss everything related to apps, technology and start-up entrepreneurship, so don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions!
About the Author
Dr. James Younger is a practicing dentist and Founder/CEO of TempStars – Canada’s largest dental temping and hiring service. Launching an app in 2016, Dr. Younger spent many months solving the problems of bringing an app idea to market. This journey created a deep passion for engaging with the bustling community of technology entrepreneurship. Dr. Younger is always excited to give back and help others succeed in their own entrepreneurial ventures. If you have questions about an app idea or bringing app ideas to market, Dr. Younger can be reached at email@example.com.
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